When we think of our local library, many of us think of all the great books on our list that we can check out, but there's a lot more to libraries than just books. This week was National Library Week, an annual celebration sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA). Each year, National Library Week has a theme unique to the year. This year's theme, "There's More to the Story", illustrates the fact that, in addition to books in library collections, libraries throughout the United States, and even right here in our very own Commonwealth, now lend things like items and experiences.
In the mid-1950s, research showed that Americans were spending less on books and more on radios, televisions, and musical instruments. The ALA was concerned that people were reading less, so they, along with the American Book Publishers, formed a nonprofit citizens organization called the National Book Committee in 1954. The committee's goals were ambitious and ranged from "encouraging people to read in their increasing leisure time" to "improving incomes and health" and "developing strong and happy family life." With the cooperation of the ALA and help from the Advertising Council, the first National Library Week was observed in 1958 with the theme "Wake Up and Read!" Since then, National Library Week has been observed each year, with a relevant theme and events to help people celebrate.
This week, some of the events included:
- Right to Read Day: a day for readers, advocates, and library lovers to take action to protect, defend, and celebrate the right to read.
- National Library Workers Day: a day for library staff, users, administrators, and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.
- National Library Outreach Day (formerly National Bookmobile Day): a day to celebrate library outreach and the dedicated library professionals who are meeting their patrons where they are.
- Take Action for Libraries Day: a day to rally advocates to support libraries.
Libraries lend a lot more than just books. They lend items like museum passes, games, musical instruments, and even tools. In fact, there are a number of libraries across Pennsylvania that allow patrons to check out more than books. In Elk County, the St. Marys Public Library recently opened up their Library of Things where people can check out tools, household items, and other useful devices. At the Bucks County Free Library, patrons can check out a wide variety of items, including telescopes and ukuleles. Check out your local library to see what cool things you might be able to borrow!
Libraries also offer a wide range of programming, including book clubs, story times, movie nights, crafting classes, and lectures. They support and advance communities by providing invaluable resources like internet and technology access, literacy skills, support for businesses, job seekers, and entrepreneurs, and much more. No matter what week or month of the year it is, we can always celebrate libraries by showing our support and checking out a book (or two or three or four), a tool, game, sport, or musical instrument. So, what will you check out of your local library next?